Debate over building a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings continues to gain momentum as various business and community groups, along with a host of state lawmakers, weigh in with plans on where the stadium should be located and how it might be funded. With so much at stake—including construction costs estimated between $900 million and $1.1 billion, and what many say is a legitimate threat that current Vikings' owners Mark and Zygi Wilf could relocate the team to Los Angeles—Richfield Patch caught up with House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (D-Richfield/Minneapolis) via e-mail to get his take on the issue.
Richfield Patch: What is your position regarding the stadium?
Rep. Paul Thissen: The Vikings are a public asset to our state in many ways, large and small, and we should act prudently and responsibly to keep the team—and the jobs that go along with it—in Minnesota on terms that make sense for the State of Minnesota. I am committed to that and I'm open to a prudent investment of public dollars to do so. The most important thing for me is that we as state leaders actually negotiate the best deal we can for Minnesota and do not simply accept the Vikings' terms. ...
Personally, building a stadium does not rank with education, transportation infrastructure and health care as a priority. Investment in those areas will do more to build our long-term success as a state. That said, I do not want to fall into the trap of an either/or argument. I have long been willing to—and have voted to—raise revenues to fund those important priorities and I will continue to advocate for those investments regardless of how the stadium debate turns out.
Richfield Patch: In a press conference last week Gov. Dayton called on “leaders of the Legislature to show some leadership” in order to get a new stadium built. With concerns about the issue mounting, as House Minority Leader what will you be emphasizing in the coming weeks and months?
Thissen: The Democrats in the House do not have a "caucus position" on the stadium. There will be Democrats who will vote for it and Democrats who vote against it. More than anything, it is important we have a robust public debate and public input. That is critical. Minnesotans deserve the opportunity to view the specifics of any stadium proposal and have time to weigh in. As minority leader and as a state representative, I will communicate to the public as specific details of a stadium proposal develop.
Richfield Patch: What are the most significant barriers legislators will need to overcome if a new stadium is going to be built?
Thissen: The first barrier to overcome is for the Republican majority to come forward with a stadium proposal. Republican legislators in the House and Senate have indicated they will author stadium legislation, but have not yet come forward with the specifics of their plan.
Richfield Patch: A number of plans—including racinos, sales tax increases, and even public ownership of the team—have been floated by legislators and others as a means of funding a new stadium. Is there a position or plan you support over others?
Thissen: If a stadium proposal is brought forward, Minnesotans should expect it to be a serious proposal. Serious in the Legislature means that a proposal can get 68 votes—enough to pass. Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers has said that racino/casino proposals do not have enough votes to pass. Historically they have not had enough support. As such, I do not believe these to be serious options. I also believe that Legacy funds are not an appropriate financing mechanism because raiding dedicated funds for unintended purposes is unwise and unfair to Minnesota voters.